Don’t Believe Everything You Think
“It may not have been a perfect box, but its walls sure were sturdy, until they weren’t.”
I had the distinct pleasure of conversing with the infamous Steve Browne last week. I had called Steve because I found myself at a gulch and somewhat afraid, unable or unwilling to jump in or over it.
Steve talked some sense into me and helped me realize that not only were my legs long enough to easily step over the gulch but even if they weren’t, getting wet and dirty wouldn’t be the end of the world. (That, my faithful reader, is another story for another time.)
While Steve was calming me down and helping me see reality, he offered this little nugget:
“Heather, people are comfortable putting us in boxes and they don’t quite know what to do when they see us outside of those boxes.”
What Steve was talking about is the paradigms we have about others.
For example, “he’s a Financial Analyst and, therefore, he is a tad anal, competitive and probably a bit standoffish.” Or, “she is “just” an HR Generalist so this new job of “Manager” is probably out of her reach.”
I pondered what Steve said for quite some time, and I realized that all too often, I find myself unable to see beyond the paradigm I have of myself.
What I mean is this: for years, I have safely, comfortably, and happily put myself in a box and today, I don’t know quite what to do when I find myself outside of it.
I was a married to man I was with for half of my life, so who am I now that I am divorced?
I was the mother of two adoring children, but what type of a person am I if my daughter resents, if not hates me?
I was a successful HR and Org. Performance Consultant, but what if people equate my many, many years of experience with being too old or irrelevant?
I was an owner of the best little FroYo shoppe in Alaska but what does it say about me if our shoppe has to close its doors?
As I contemplated my own paradigms, and stewed about the crippling fears associated with forcing myself to see outside of them, I was struck with an epiphany.
What does an infant do when you have to “unswaddle” her to change her diaper? She screams because you have removed the environment in which she found comfort.
What does a child do when he learns he isn’t invited to a classmate’s birthday party? He cries because he believes he is unwanted or somehow unimportant.
What does a teenager do when an injury results in giving up a sport she has played for years? She retreats within herself because she no longer knows what will define her.
Am I not doing the same thing? Of course I am!
My epiphany is this: what would I do if I were calming the infant, the child or the teenager?
“Shhh,” I’d say, “you’ll be just fine.”
Obviously, I need to calm myself.
I need to assure myself that I can and will grow personally and professionally only if I am uncomfortable and outside of my box.
I need to assure myself that I HAVE VALUE because of my past experiences and that I AM VALUABLE because of my future potential.
And finally, I need to assure myself that even though my future will not be as I imagined it would be, my present is exactly as it should be.
“Shhh,” I say, “I’ll be just fine.”